Articles by Jim Gainan

As published in the Billings Gazette

Striking flowering crabapple trees dot the Billings' landscape

As I drive around town, I have been enjoying the spectacular display from the crabapple trees shouting that spring is here. When their canopies are full of blossoms in white, pink and red, it is easy to see why these trees are so popular.

There are many varieties of crabapples available ranging in mature height from eight feet to thirty feet, so there is a perfect fit for any space. Crabapples prefer full-to-partial sun and are very adaptable to soil and environmental conditions. Many of the newer varieties are also resistant to the diseases that plague the older cultivars, such as fireblight. However, resistant doesn't mean immune, so always keep an eye on the condition of your tree.

The Spring Snow crabapple is the only variety that is sterile and will not produce fruit. Some varieties, including Prairiefire and Thunderchild produce persistent fruit - fruit that clings to the branches of the tree and does not drop. An interesting bit of information that I learned is that by definition a crabapple tree has fruit that is less than two inches in diameter. If the fruit is larger than two inches, it is defined as an apple tree.

If you have a flowering crabapple and love the flowers, but don't love the fruit, there are sprays that can be applied to prevent the fruit from forming.

Thunderchild Crabapple

15-20' x 15'

Compact, upright spreader has deep purple leaves; flowers appear before foliage; persistent dark red fruit; very resistant to fireblight


Prairiefire Crabapple

15-20' x 20'

Attractive reddish bark; maroon leaves turning reddish-green; small persistent dark red fruit; disease resistant


Brandywine Crabapple

15' x 15'

Blooms later than most crabapples; burgundy leaves


Camelot Crabapple

10' x 8'

Dwarf tree with thick, leathery, dark green leaves with burgundy overcast; disease resistant


Louisa Weeping Crabapple

15' x 15'

Weeping form with persistent yellow fruit; disease resistant


Coralburst Crabapple

8-10' x 12-15'

Small uniform tree grafted on a standard to form rounded head; bronze fruit; good fireblight resistance


Profusion Crabapple

15-20' x 25'

Smaller, rounded tree; foliage emerges purple turning bronze green; persistent red fruit


Perfect Purple Crabapple

25' x 12'

Glossy purple foliage; uniform growth; persistent red fruit


Red Barron Crabapple

12-18' x 8'

Very columnar when young becoming rounded upon maturity; purple foliage turns to bronze-green; red fruit is persistent; disease resistant


Pink Spires Crabapple

15-20' x 12'

Hardy, narrow, upright tree; leaves change seasonally from red/purple to green/bronze to copper in fall; persistent dark red fruit


Purple Prince Crabapple

15-20' x 25'

Fast-growing; rounded tree; maroon fruit; purplish bronze foliage; disease resistant


Red Jade Crabapple

12' x 12'

Dependable, early-blooming weeping variety; glossy green foliage with red persistent fruit; moderate disease resistance


Spring Snow Crabapple

25-30' x 15'

Prolific bloomer with bright green shiny foliage; does not produce fruit; good heat tolerance; fair resistance to fireblight; yellow fall color


Jim Gainan is VP/Shareholder of Gainan's Flower and Garden Center in Billings. Questions or comments? Email Jim Gainan @